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Helping A Family Decide Whether to End Life Support

Dear Barbara, How can I help my family decide whether to “pull the plug” on my ex-husband? He is on life support machines right now. Also can you give me some advice as to the Death Doula role for pulling the plug? 

I don’t know the details of your ex-husband being on life support so I can’t give you specifics.

What do you say? As an ex what is your relationship to your ex-husband’s family? Will they appreciate your input or resent it? 

If you have no relationship or a challenging one then stay out of it. You have no place in decisions, even if he is the father of your children.

If you have a good, amicable relationship then get them together and say, with caring in your heart, “I am going to tell you some things I have learned about end of life. It will be hard to hear what I am about to say but please hear me out.” Then talk to them about the pros and cons of staying on life support. Reinforce what the physicians have said about the reason he is coming to the end of his life. Tell them he can hear as if from afar so they need to talk to him, tell him their thoughts about their decisions. Tell them how the life support will be removed, what his body will do and what they can do. Tell them, if they would like, you will stay with them and guide them through this difficult time.   

When you are finished tell them how much you appreciate them having listened to your knowledge, ask if they have any questions you can help them with. Ask if there is anything you can do to help and support them.  

A death doula’s role in making end of life decisions is one of offering knowledge then giving support with whatever decision is made, regardless of whether the doula agrees with the decision or not. Our role is to teach and support. We have no right or wrong ways to offer, only ideas to consider. 

Something more…  about Helping A Family Decide Whether to End Life Support 

I would encourage the end of life doula to provide the family with Grief support. No one has taught us what it feels like to grieve. We don’t know how to heal the hurt created by Grief or how to live with it. My Friend, I Care offers simple explanations for the thoughts and feelings generated by Grief.  

Originally Published on https://bkbooks.com/blogs/something-to-think-about

Barbara Karnes Registered Nurse

Barbara Karnes, RN Award Winning End of Life Educator, Award Winning Nurse, NHPCO Hospice Innovator Award Winner 2018 & 2015 International Humanitarian Woman of the Year

While at the bedside of hundreds of people during the dying process, Hospice Pioneer Barbara Karnes noticed that each death was following a near identical script. Each person was going through the stages of death in almost the same manner and most families came to her with similar questions. These realizations led Barbara to sit down and write Gone From My Sight, "The Little Blue Book" that changed the hospice industry.

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